Life’s Greatest Rewards Honored

By Laine Crosby

If you haven’t seen the movie classic It’s a Wonderful Life, you might have to turn in your bank marketer’s card. As a vocational PR vehicle, it does for community banking what every James Bond movie does for careers in the clandestine services. And in all seriousness, the film shows how banking can spark an emotional response when we throw a light on the long-term good it can do for our neighbors.

Each year, the American Bankers Association Foundation recognizes a banker who demonstrates outstanding initiative, effectiveness, and inspiration to others. The award is named after the film’s lead character, George Bailey, a banker whose personal sacrifices make his community a better place to live.

This year, ABA recognized David Devine, Columbia Bank’s senior vice president and marketing director, with the 2016 George Bailey Individual Service Award for his work in managing the bank’s numerous community outreach programs. Like the award’s namesake, David’s commitment to the community has broadened the traditional approach to philanthropy.

As a resident of Pioneer Square in Seattle, Washington, David was well aware of the reality of homelessness. Shelters are underfunded and overcrowded, and the homeless population is increasing, posing challenges for aid organizations in the area. David saw the urgent need not only to help, but to draw attention to the growing problem and encourage the community to give back, while working toward a solution.

David wanted to leverage the bank’s growing size and capabilities and to make a difference in the community on a larger scale, while empowering employees to get involved. In December 2015, David launched Columbia Bank’s first annual Warm Hearts Winter Drive to benefit homeless shelters in the bank’s communities in the Northwest. The program was an instant success. David inspired the bank’s employees and their local communities to collect over 12,000 items of warm clothing and raise more than $150,000 in cash donations to benefit homeless shelters. The bank’s customers became part of the success in their communities, and hundreds of local businesses and individuals took part. Under David’s leadership, the fundraiser grew to become a way for communities to help their neighbors in 58 homeless shelters in 48 counties.

But the program wasn’t just numbers––when the branches reached out to their customers, the fundraiser gave more than gloves, scarves, coats, socks, and mittens––it gave hope. Mike Deckon, a manager for the Portland Rescue Mission said, “Every day we offer warmth, hope and hospitality to hundreds who need a hot meal, clothing, and safe place to rest.” He added that the gift from the Warm Hearts drive “will feed and care for 9,375 people, and give hope and restore life for people in need.”

An unforeseen benefit of the drive was how Warm Hearts united Columbia Bank at a time when recent acquisitions had brought more employees and branches to the bank. While these efforts helped in addressing needs in the local community, the morale across the bank surged as every branch and department came together to sort clothes, assemble displays, recruit, and fundraise for the united cause.

Of course, an effort of this scale was made possible by an extended network of branches, sophisticated resources, and a dedicated team with a vision.

David’s vision of an entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy, has extended well beyond the Warm Hearts Winter Drive. Last fall, David made changes to the company’s two Puget Sound Heart Walks for the American Heart Association, doubling the amount of funds raised from the previous year. These early results demonstrated the tangible difference that Columbia Bank’s employees could make, which inspired David and his colleagues to think bigger and do even more in their local communities.

David felt more could be done to provide access to the arts for economically disadvantaged families. Toward that end, he built a coalition through Columbia Bank’s Third Thursday program, increasing awareness of the free admission programs at local museums. David is committed to bringing every arts-related organization in Tacoma into the program in the next few years.

David is also passionate about providing resources to create opportunities for minority youth to achieve success. His work with the Tacoma Urban League and the Tacoma NAACP supports programs that provide young minority students with the kind of resources, education, and mentorship that will afford them the same opportunities for success as their peers.

The ABA Distinguished Service Award is well-deserved by David, as his vision and actionable philanthropic strategies have helped those in need lead more wonderful lives. He clearly exemplifies the motto hanging in George Bailey’s office: “All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.”

Laine Crosby is a marketing and financial services writer, a New York Times bestselling author, and editor of ABA Bank Compliance magazine. Email: [email protected].